Matagalpa is a pleasant spot. Green mountains rise around the edge of town, hiding their tops in low clouds and making the town feel as if it's being cuddled by the landscape, and the main square is leafy, open and, as per usual, dominated by a huge white cathedral. There's a coffee museum, there are loads of cafés selling the local brew, and there are even some really good restaurants; indeed, the Italian restaurant in a small side-road just behind our hotel serves up a genuinely delicious pizza, cooked properly in the Italian style rather than the more common and more depressing (failed) attempts at American pizza that we've had to get used to throughout Central America. This is a first; thank you, La Vita é Bella.
We didn't do a lot except wander round town and go on a coffee tour and a chocolate tour. We did try a local Nicaraguan restaurant called a 'steam table', which I'd hoped would be like the steam cafés in Kuala Lumpur, but which turned out to be nothing more than a dull, factory-style canteen selling food that genuinely tasted like it had been beamed here straight from a 1970s school. There was no steam to be found anywhere, but they did sell an utterly disgusting drink, which the menu simply referred to as naranjilla refresco natural ('natural orange drink'), and which we both found to be completely undrinkable; it tasted like sour milk with a fake orange flavour, and made both of us wince every time we sipped it (which we stopped doing after a while). We shan't be darkening the doorway of any more steam tables, that's for sure.
But the biggest surprise was my camera. Back in Lago de Atitlán in Guatamala, my camera developed a bit of a problem: a big bit of fluff managed to find its way into the lens, so every time I zoomed in to a certain level, I got a big black splodge at the top of the picture. I soon learned to zoom out slightly and to crop the resulting photo on my Mac – so you shouldn't see the fluff in any of the photos on this site – and when I accidentally dropped the camera a couple of days later up the Indian's Nose, the bit of fluff jumped over to the left-hand side of the photo, where it's been lodged ever since.
I'd given up on ever getting this problem fixed, but I didn't realise that the coffee farmers of Matagalpa have a latent talent for fixing cameras. When we'd finished our tour of the coffee plantation and went back to the farmer's house for lunch, I left my fleece on the outside wall with my camera wrapped up in it, and went inside to eat. As I sat down, I noticed out the corner of my eye that the matriarch had gone outside, picked up my fleece and was heading back to the house with it tucked under her arm. As she walked nonchalantly across the concrete patio, my brain sluggishly started to form the thought, 'Hang on, my camera's inside my fleece, and she doesn't know it... noooo!', and sure enough, I soon heard the sickening crunch of delicate electronics hitting concrete from a height of a metre or so.
'Ah,' I thought, and kept quiet as the matriarch picked up my camera, shrugged and quietly put it and my fleece onto a chair just inside the door, presumably hoping nobody would notice.
I assumed that my camera would be completely dead, but no, far from it. Not only is my camera still working perfectly, but the bit of fluff has completely gone, knocked into some dark corner of the camera's innards by the concrete floor. So a big thanks to you, the farming community of La Corona, for fixing my camera. I now know where to come when it goes wrong next time...